Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of James Bryan Smith's new book, The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows, (InterVarsity Press, 2009).

What you think about God will determine the kind of relationship you have with Him.  If you think of God as harsh and demanding, you'll probably be afraid of God and keep your distance from Him.  If you think of God as just an impersonal force in the universe, you'll likely have nothing but a vague relationship with Him.  But if you think about God the way Jesus does, you'll get an accurate perspective that will lead you to fall in love with Him.

Here's how you can fall in love with the God Jesus knows:

Seek true change in your life.  God has great purposes for your life and wants to help you grow as a person.  Invite God to lead you toward the best life possible and transform you into the person He wants you to become.  Understand that real change comes only by changing the way you think, since your thoughts lead to your actions.  So commit to examining the stories you have in your mind about God and evaluating whether they're true or false. 

Replace wrong thoughts about God with thoughts that line up with biblical truth, as the Holy Spirit leads you.  Once you begin to think about God correctly and clearly, you'll gain the confidence you need to trust Him more as He transforms you.  Be sure to get enough sleep on a regular basis so you'll be rested enough to truly concentrate on activities like prayer and reading the Bible - activities through which you can pursue a closer relationship with God.

Discover that God is good.  Even though you live in a fallen world and will experience suffering as a result, God sent Jesus to overcome the sin that causes suffering, and He offers you real hope even the midst of the worst situations.  Jesus says that His Father is good, and He proclaimed that reality even during times when He intensely suffered here on earth. 

When you invite Jesus to live in and through you, He will give you the faith you need to go on even while you're suffering.  Jesus will believe for you when you can't believe in your own strength.  If you trust God even when going through pain, God will use it to accomplish good purposes in your life.  You can experience more of God's goodness by spending a few minutes each day in silence and by spending some time regularly outside in God's creation.  Notice how God reveals more of His character to you as you draw closer to Him through silence and time in creation.

Discover that God is trustworthy.  Hurtful experiences - from a dream that didn't come true to the death of a person you love - can make it difficult for you to trust God.  But God can be trusted even when your life doesn't make sense or when something in it is difficult to accept.  The God that Jesus describes is nearby, holy, powerful, caring, forgiving, and protecting.  Even in the midst of fear and doubt during His earthly lifetime (such as while preparing to die on the cross), Jesus chose to trust and obey His heavenly Father. 

Like Jesus, sometimes you'll need to go through pain in order for something good to be accomplished, but God will always be with you and give you the mercy and grace to empower you to face any situation.  He will also redeem even the most painful circumstances.  Start counting your blessings by writing them down regularly in an ongoing list.  As you read through your growing list of blessings, thank God for them and praise Him for His work in your life.